Writing to win: persuasive writing techniques

Writing to win: persuasive writing techniques

By Emily Halloran

Persuasive writing helps you get what you want. Whether you write marketing copy or policies and procedures, it’s worth knowing a few persuasive devices.

You’ve probably heard of Aristotle’s ethos, logos and pathos. But you can also classify rhetorical arguments into 4 groups. Dr Neil James, internationally renowned plain language expert, classifies the rhetorical arguments like this:

  • consequence
  • example
  • authority
  • definition.
A woman in a spotty shirt speaks persuasively to her colleagues. She uses the tools she learned in our persuasive writing workshops.

Read on for our practical tips for persuasive writing. For more information about the difference between writing to win arguments and writing to inform, read our blog Writing for readers, writing to inform.

Convert with proofs of consequence

In this scenario, you need to convince staff to implement a sustainability initiative. Here are 3 example arguments to persuade your colleagues:

  • Our company is a certified B Corporation. If we don’t implement this initiative, we could lose our certification and damage our reputation.
  • The last time we failed to implement sustainability measures, we were fined for misrepresented sustainability statements.
  • The initiative is relatively low cost but will improve our sustainability rating significantly.

Why do proofs of consequence work?

Proofs of consequence work because they unambiguously show readers the benefits they get or problems they avoid by agreeing. These are the strongest arguments, so try to lead with them to persuade your readers.

Sway with proofs of example

In this scenario, you work at a large technology company. The company is moving, and you’re trying to convince decision-makers to use the company, Chartreuse Movers. Here are 3 example arguments to persuade decision-makers:

  • Our sibling company, International Blue Machines, used this company to move and found the process efficient and successful.
  • Other large technology companies in Australia have used this company, in fact it’s a preferred supplier.
  • Going with an unknown mover would be like asking a passer-by to collect your child from kindergarten.

Why do proofs of example work?

Proofs of example work because it shows that what you’re proposing will work. They help your readers understand your argument more easily. Use these to expand on your main argument.

Persuade with proofs of authority

In this scenario, you think your government agency would benefit from a plain language program. You must convince the decision-makers within your unit. Here are 3 example arguments to persuade decision-makers:

  • In line with Australia’s discrimination laws, government organisations must write accessible public-facing documents. And plain language helps to make documents more accessible.
  • State governments around Australia have worked with Plain English Foundation to implement plain language.
  • Failure to communicate clearly and accessibly means the public have unequal access to our information and services.

Why do proofs of authority work?

Proofs of authority work because these arguments appeal to a standard, law or moral authority. And these are things that people trust. Use these to support your main argument.

Want your writing to be

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Convince with proofs of definition

In this scenario, you want to upgrade your company’s project management software. You’ve been relying on Excel while the business grows. You need to convince your manager. Here are 3 example arguments to persuade your manager:

  • By definition, project managers need the correct software to do their jobs effectively.
  • Our contracts with clients state that we’re responsible for managing projects efficiently and effectively. And this software will allow us to manage projects efficiently and effectively.
  • We spoke to the project managers in our company who use Excel. They all agreed that Excel was no longer fit for purpose and that we should upgrade to the dedicated management software.

Why proofs of definition work (or don’t)

If other proofs aren’t available, proofs of definition can work because they qualify your argument. These are the weakest proofs because they’re often procedural and give information rather than focusing on benefits or examples.

Learn to persuade with our communication workshops

Poor writing and communication may lead to mistakes that cost your company time and money. And professionals who attend our workshops report that their communication skills improve significantly.

See what we did there? That’s right, we used proofs of example.

We offer online and face-to-face workshops wherever you are around Australia. Or take advantage of our state-of-the-art training facilities from Brisbane to Perth. You can find descriptions of all our workshops on our website or contact our friendly team for help choosing the right workshop for you.

And to help you write clearly and persuasively every day, we have our free Australian Style Guide. This resource covers the most common style questions for Australian professionals.

All our resources, workshops and editing services are in line with Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines (ISO 24495-1).

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